Over the years, my Christmas music consumption has dwindled. More so than any other genre type, Christmas music seems to lose its relistenability value whenever I revisit dated songs come holiday season. A couple of things I do value in Christmas music is when it gets updated—sometimes a tempo increase—and covered by a different group. There are definitely songs and albums that are meant to be relistened to every winter and spring and so forth, but I’d rather listen to a pop-punk version of “All I Want for Christmas” than Mariah Carey’s version for the 15th straight year.
For the past three holiday seasons, Eric Clemens of local blues pop band Clemens & Co has been providing an avenue for those wanting to hear new and refreshed versions of outdated Christmas songs. The yearly Advent Calendar that he curates has become a local avenue for just that. Every year Clemens invites an all-star cast of Columbus-area musicians (and even some outsiders) to throw their own signature style on 25 Christmas tracks, kicking off on the first day of the month. The effort to promote these musicians and various venues every December with Christmas covers has been an extremely effective local music promotion technique.
“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” — Zoo Trippin’
The series caught my eye from the very first release, a ramped-up, outrageous performance of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” by local blues-rock band Zoo Trippin’. While Clemens assists each act in their remake, he gives creative control over to the guests of honor. Ranging from Advent Calendar alumni to musicians taking their first stab, before the year is over Clemens will have a portfolio of 75 Christmas covers under his belt. A pretty impressive feat.
Below you can find a list of six other Advent Calendar covers that will surely get you in the holiday spirit. You can also find all 25 Christmas covers from 2019 on the Clemens and Co website, along with performances from the 2017 and 2018 series.
“Pretty Paper” — Lindsay Jordan
A singer with West Virginian roots, Lindsay Jordan brought along her band to celebrate the sixth day of Christmas. The song of choice: the Willie Nelson-written, Roy Orbison hit “Pretty Paper.” Jordan’s rendition has a lot of soul, and you’ll definitely catch yourself swinging from side to side. They even added in a celebratory group beer shotgun at the end.
“White Christmas” — Lily St. Clair
Lily St. Clair made her performance extremely intimate with the inclusion of a harp—an instrument she’s not shy to—for “White Christmas.” Clemons plays guitar and sings alongside Lily, a very appropriate accompaniment. A snowfall filter also kicks in just over a quarter into the video, adding to the winter ambience.
“Up on the Housetop” — The Farmer & Adele and Billy Zenn
A song that dates back to the 19th century, Nashville duo The Farmer & Adele joined forces with Clemens and Columbus music legend Billy Zenn for this one. The cover is yet another exercise of Clemens bringing aboard guests for some good ol’ Christmas fun.
“Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy” — Josh Brenneman and Austin Antoniou
A display of great musicianship all around, Clemens is joined by local musicians Josh Brenneman and Austin Antoniou. The nearly two-minute instrumental track might be the best guitarmanship of the entire Advent Calendar series.
“The Night Santa Went Crazy” — Straw & The Scarecrow
Duo Straw & The Scarecrow brought out the “Weird Al” Yankovic Christmas parody classic “The Night Santa Went Crazy” for their Advent Calendar performance. The song borrows from Soul Asylum’s “Black Gold,” Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mama, I’m Coming Home,” and Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas.” Straw sings and plays piano in a reindeer onesie to add to the fun.
“Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” — Something Else
NSYNC followed up their debut with a Christmas album the same year, gifting us with “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.” Something Else does an amazing job at keeping the pop charm of the original while still adding their alternative edge to the mix. The message to “be excellent to each other” at the end is charming as well.
Video and photography were provided by Dan Mitchell of Mitchell Multimedia and Kayla Kreller of BlazingChakrams Photography. The venues and sound techs that also contributed to the success of this project include Nick Magoteaux of The Shrunken Head, Tony Rice of Brothers Drake, Jeff Straw of Victory’s Live, Lou Kestella of Musicologie, Alex Kolton of Rambling House, and Kafe Kerouac.
You can check out some of these songs live in person at Clemens and Co annual Holiday Happy Hour at The Shrunken Head. The show takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, December 21. The celebration is free, but you’re encouraged to wear festive gear.